“The Best in Performance” video series from Rigor gives you the chance to listen in on conversations with web performance industry experts, thought leaders, and technologists as they discuss current trends, challenges, and lessons that impact the APM and performance space today.
Why spend time traveling to seminars when you can learn from industry experts and peers from your own device at any hour of the day? You’ll be armed with information from industry experts and peers that you can use to start conversations and make an impact in your own organization.
Check out highlights from our conversation with Buddy Brewer, then view full episodes in the series and subscribe to be alerted when new episodes go live.
Buddy Brewer is a product leader at New Relic, where he is responsible for customer experience monitoring, including the browser, synthetics, and mobile products. Brewer’s background is in front-end performance – he spent almost 20 years building synthetic and Real User Monitoring (RUM) products at companies like Gomez (now part of Dynatrace), SOASTA, and Akamai in roles spanning engineering, product management, and sales. Brewer co-founded mPulse (now part of Akamai) and is a frequent speaker at industry conferences about web performance.
Brewer sat down with Rigor’s CTO Billy Hoffman to discuss web performance from his perspective within the RUM space. Brewer and Hoffman cover the evolution of RUM, tips for building a culture of performance, and ways to align RUM and synthetic monitoring to view the bigger user experience picture.
Buddy Brewer on….
- Identifying key metrics.
- Discussing metrics with business teams.
- Breaking down silos.
- Setting expectations around performance.
- Incorporating performance culture successfully.
- Getting started with performance monitoring.
- Lessons learned.
Q: How can RUM data, combined with technical data, help identify key metrics?
Today, there are more trackable metrics than ever before, says Brewer, which can lead to the question of “which ones should I optimize?” Brewer finds this growth particularly interesting through the lens of the evolution of RUM. He explains that RUM data can be combined with technical details to determine “how fast you need to be along what dimension, what metric. Which one is actually driving the business outcomes?”
Q: As the number of metrics grows, how do you communicate the nuances of these metrics to the business side of an organization?
Brewer says that the key is to find agreement up front about the metrics that your organization’s audience cares about, then show how the technical metrics relate to the business objectives. “In commerce, for example … it’s better to talk about conversion rate than it is to talk about First Contentful Paint,” he explains. “You can build a bridge from the business constituency to the technical constituency, but you have to start with the metrics that they’re familiar with.” He adds, “It’s important not to overpower your audience with too many metrics. Just pick one or two.”
Q: How do you break down organizational silos and find a common language to engage people in a conversation about metrics?
“You can’t build a relationship with ‘the business.’ You build relationships between people and people – it’s a personal thing,” Brewer says. He advises that performance experts find a partner within the business side of their organization to align with. If you’re having trouble getting started, Brewer suggests finding someone who, as part of their role, interacts in a cross-functional way with others. He explains that you can “create those individual relationships, and maybe set up one or two … ‘lighthouse’ relationships.”You don’t build relationships with ‘the business.’ You build relationships between people and people. - Buddy Brewer @bbrewer @newrelic #webperf #bestinperformance Click To Tweet
Once you win over one or two people as partners, he says, you can all work together to frame performance monitoring as something that’s actionable to the organization and will drive investments in optimization.
Q: How can someone get started setting expectations around performance to get metrics prioritized on a roadmap?
Brewer says that a mistake organizations make is “setting a goal that’s too far out. It’s better to do a lot of little iterations on performance and chip away at it. As a side effect, it creates a culture of revisiting and ingraining it as something that we’re constantly doing, and not just a one-off project.” He adds that performance needs to be seen as something that co-exists as a core feature of user experience, just like other design work. Then, gather and share RUM data alongside business metrics to build support and ask, “Are there ways – without disrupting the overall functionality of the site – that we can speed things up a little bit?”
Q: How have you seen companies be successful in building performance culture throughout the organization?
“Consistency is key,” says Brewer. Performance culture has to be built on a regular cadence, rather than handled as a one-off effort. In addition, multiple people need to be involved when establishing a culture of performance, he notes, so that organizational resilience is developed. That way if one performance advocate leaves, the culture continues with others.Consistency is key. - Buddy Brewer @bbrewer @newrelic #webperf #bestinperformance Click To Tweet
One tactic that Brewer says he’s seen work successfully is the establishment of regular performance summits. These summits bring together representatives from marketing, design, tech, operations, and more within the organization, along with all vendors, facilitating a conversation around maintaining site performance to provide a good experience to customers.
Q: What does an organization need to do to start building a practice of performance monitoring?
When starting from scratch, Brewer recommends setting a baseline by focusing on two key relationships:
1. The relationship between your company and your customers.
2. The relationship between your company and your competitors.
To dive deeper into the relationship with customers or site users, Brewer recommends collecting data using RUM. “That’s going to give me an idea of how well I’m meeting [customers’] expectations about performance,” he says. That data can then be analyzed and used to improve user experience. Then, when looking at competitor relationships, Brewer says, use synthetic monitoring. “Build a panel of whichever those companies are that are in my peer group, and then create a stack rank so I can understand on an ongoing basis where I sit relative to [them],” he explains. Then, Brewer recommends also looking at the performance of your site relative to referral sites (search engines, social media sites, and so on), as users expect a similar or consistent experience from site to site across the Internet.
From: The Best In Performance Interview Series – Buddy Brewer on building a culture of performance via small, repeatable practices – (1:30) – Watch Full Episode
Q: What is the one thing you know now that you wish you had known when you started your career in RUM?
Brewer says that when he started working in RUM, he feels that the industry wasn’t focused in the right direction when they were building tools. He explains that at first, RUM was approached in the exact same way as synthetic monitoring. “It was the same time series charts and the same reports that we were generating for synthetic, just doing it from real users,” he notes.
He likens this evolution to when television first got started and it was “basically radio with a camera pointing at the person.” Over time, television started to take full advantage of the visual medium – complementary to and aligned with radio, but fundamentally different. “When we started doing RUM, it was like the early days of TV where we were just taking synthetic reports and doing them all over again, just measuring browsers instead of agents.” He adds that over time they realized that “because we’re talking about real people, the technical metrics are only about half of the interesting stuff that we could be collecting.”
“If we’d gotten there a couple of years faster,” he says, “maybe we’d be farther along than we are today.”
In order to establish a culture of performance within an organization, Brewer suggests finding and developing relationships with key players so that performance becomes an ingrained part of the business – and the roadmap. You can then build on performance by looking closely at relationships with both customers and competitors, combining insights from both RUM and synthetic monitoring to make improvements.
Check out Buddy Brewer’s full episode of The Best In Performance video interview series – as well as episodes from other industry experts. Then subscribe to be notified about new episodes as they’re released so you never miss an update.
Rigor takes advantage of synthetic monitoring, which, combined with RUM data, provides actionable insights for performance improvements. To learn more about Rigor’s platform, reach out for a free trial and more information.
What metrics have your organization found to be important when looking at customer and competitor relationships?